how to be a local in denmark

How to be a Dane for a day (in Copenhagen)

It seems that the world loves Denmark.

Consistently voted as one of the worlds happiest countries and known as the Capital of Cool, it appears outwardly at least that we all want a bit of the Danish pie (or should we say, pastry).

But if you’re a tourist and only have a few days it can be difficult to truly experience the city as a local would.  You’re instead drawn to the same touristic experience that other tourists before you have walked.  Visiting the tourist traps and being distracted by tacky souvenirs and cheap hotdogs believing that is part of the authentic experience.

Never fear though, because if you’re about to visit Copenhagen and want to have a more authentic every day kind of experience, then this post is exactly what you need.

Be like a Dane if only for a day, and do this:


1.      Grab a bike

First, you must start your day on a bike. Forget the on/off city bus tours, Copenhagen is cycling and cycling is Copenhagen.  Whenever I have people visiting me in Copenhagen, the first thing I tell them is ‘get on ya bike’.

2.      Go Green

Green Bike Tours, Copenhagen https://www.greenbiketours.dk/

Green Bike Tours, Copenhagen https://www.greenbiketours.dk/

Copenhagen plans to be carbon neutral by 2025, it’s a strategy that includes includes a lot of different initiatives concerning energy supply, green urban planning and building efficiency, bike culture and transport as well as adjusting to the climate of the future.

To achieve both points 1 and point 2, you can take a tour with Green Bike tours (also operating in Malmo).  Held every Thursday at 10am and Saturday at 2pm in Copenhagen, this tour will give you a taste of the cycling culture, a bit of an overview of the City filled with every possible fact you can imagine about what Copenhagen is doing to achieve their goal fo being the first city to go carbon neutral in the world. You might even come out more knowledgeable than the locals.


3.      Eat Smørrebrød 

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Smørrebrød. This is what every Dane is brought up on and eats daily.  An open-faced sandwich that consists of a piece of buttered rye bread (known as rugbrød), a dense, dark brown bread, with various toppings on it such as pieces of meat or fish, cheese or spreads with garnishes.  Sounds simple right?  But oh my, this is Denmark and there are rules.  Nothing says foreigner as much as  someone placing the wrong selection of toppings on.  Or even worse, eating the white bread first. 

Smørrebrød is best accompanied by a beer and most tourists fall into the trap of going to Nyhavn and finding an over priced restaurant to sit outside of and eat Smørrebrød.  But if you want the real deal made with love and with staff that are there solely to talk you through the different options, then take the short walk from Nyhavn to the brand new Boltons Food Court and visit HYGGE Taste of Denmark on the 2nd floor.  Hidden in a courtyard, Peter and his crew will be glad to see you and make sure you’re doing it right.  A more casual sitting area (although still with proper knives and forks) allows a more flexible eating environment in which you can be assured that you are eating the real deal, and one that it is quality. And the best thing is you are encouraged to ask anything you might be unsure of.

 But don’t eat too much, because we now need to fit in a stop at a Bakery.  That’s ‘bageri’ in Danish.

 4.      Visit a bakery

Easier to find than either McDonalds or a Starbucks, you choice of bakeries within Copenhagen is wide. Look out for the ‘kringle’ sign.  A universal sign for bakeries in Denmark.

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You can’t go too wrong when it comes to selecting a bakery to visit. Even the major supermarkets offer up some pretty good options. However as a short list for you, here are some popular bakeries to look out for:

·        Meyers

·        Lakagehuset

·        Reinh Van Hauen

But my personal favourite is the new-ish Hart Bageri in Frederiksberg.  A Danish bakery with a modern touch. Follow them on Instagram to be assured of some mouth watering pastry and bread porn.

At any of these bakeries look out for rundstykker – ordinary looking bread rolls, but much more tasty than your every day bread rolls available in the rest of the world,. You can ask for one of these to be cut and served with butter and cheese (sometimes also jam). 

5.      Have a beer (or two)

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Copenhagen is home to both Tuborg and Carlsberg.  The later having a visitor centre where you can explore the site of their original factory (they have since moved out of Copenhagen to fulfil their need of more space). 

And it’s a nice enough place to visit, but it is where all the tourists go.  So if you don’t want to be like the tourists, and you would prefer to be a Dane for a Day, then head to one of the below places for a beer like a local would. Round it off with a good Copenhagen craft beer

 Or if you’re not so much of a beer person, then La Banchina makes a quirky change (close to Reffen). It’s a 16 seat farm to table vegetarian and seafood restaurant, offering thirst quenching natural wines

6.      Eat Dinner with the locals

Then to finish your day head to Absalon where you will truly be eating with local Copenhageners.  Every night the venue serves an evening meal known as ‘Faellesspisning’, a Danish communal dining experience, which has become increasingly popular in Denmark over the last few years. 

Fællesspisning every night in Copenhagen at Absalon. Photo credit Ari Zelenko

Fællesspisning every night in Copenhagen at Absalon. Photo credit Ari Zelenko

It’s a venue with a large heart created for everyone by Lennart Lejboschitz, the founder of the international chain of Tiger stores.    He has created this space which recognises that it’s the social bonds between people that gives meaning to life. 

Seated at long tables, and much like you would at a family dinner, guests are asked to collect their food from the kitchen.  A process which gives you the opportunity to begin connecting with your fellow diners in a more natural way. A small but clever gesture that creates openness and helps to begin building a sense of community between the guests.  Although it is no ordinary meal you’ll be served.  Absalon’s values also seems to attract a number of top quality staff who consistently deliver food to rival many neighbouring restaurants.  All at the fraction of the cost at around 50kr per person.

 

And then to round off your day as an optional extra – head to one of the summer baths (swimming areas) in the canal. You might also be able to have a sauna afterwards. Here’s one as a suggestion, but there are many more, just search for ‘Havnebadet’.

Danish Shortbread in pretty tins - don’t do it….ever

Danish Shortbread in pretty tins - don’t do it….ever

But if I can leave you with only one thing from this post then let it be, when in Denmark do not buy Danish shortbread.

No Dane I know has even brought this, let alone eaten it. Even knowing this, I still got sucked into buying some last year for my 92 year old Grandmother (in a pretty metal tin) as it does seem to be a perfect Grandmother type gift. But after taking it all the way to New Zealand with me I found the very same shortbread in the same tin, for a cheaper price at our local supermarket in my home town. Go figure. So when in Denmark, say ‘tak men nej taj’ (thanks but no thanks) to it.

Now you are ready. Nu er du klar.

Be like a Dane. Go forth and live the Danish dream. If even for just one day.

Send us a message or leave a comment if you have any questions or would like other suggestions!